Nobody likes having sensitive teeth, but sometimes it just happens, even if you brush your teeth regularly. While dentin sensitivity is the most common cause of sensitive teeth, it isn’t the sole reason. Exposed tooth roots can also become a source of tooth sensitivity. Your tooth roots are covered by cementum, which is more porous than your tooth enamel. So, when exposed, it’s easier for stimuli to interfere with the dentin, which can cause discomfort. It’s essential, then, to know how to treat an exposed tooth root.
Of course, knowing what caused your exposed tooth root in the first place can help. This might include:
- Periodontal disease or gum disease. When dental plaque and tartar accumulate along the gum line, it triggers an immune system response that makes your body attack its own tissues. When this happens, your teeth and gums separate, creating pockets between them. This looseness makes it ripe for root exposure.
- Overbrushing with medium to hard bristles. Brushing too roughly is harmful, as it can irritate the gums. Do it enough times, and it can loosen the structures that hold your teeth and gums together. Like gum disease, this can also expose your tooth roots.
- Tobacco. Tobacco contains substances that irritate your gum tissue, which can trigger an immune system response similar to dental plaque.
- Bruxism or teeth grinding. When you grind your teeth consistently, you don’t just move your teeth in unnatural ways. You also pull the gum tissue out, which can cause them to recede and reveal the roots.
- Malocclusion or misaligned teeth. Like teeth grinding, malocclusion-affected teeth also pull the gum tissue in unnatural directions, often exposing the tooth roots in severe cases.
Once you’ve pinpointed the source of the problem, how to treat an exposed tooth root then follows. That said, here’s how you can remedy the problem, one cause at a time:
For gum disease: root planing
There’s no way around it—if you want to know how to treat exposed tooth roots caused by gum disease, you need to head to the dentist. During that trip to the dental office, you might need to undergo a deep cleaning—also known as root planing and scaling. Your dentist first “scales” off the dental plaque and tartar underneath the gum line. They then “plane” the roots, smoothing them to reattach the gums to the teeth.
For overbrushing: change toothbrushes and brushing techniques
Want to stop your gums from receding? Switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush is an excellent first step to halting that gum recession. The second step is using more gentle strokes when you brush your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be very grateful.
For tobacco: quit the habit
The only way around tobacco-induced gum recession is to stop altogether. But while going cold turkey isn’t for everyone, you can make things a little easier by looking for alternatives as you begin the transition. But be wary of getting hooked on those alternatives as well—they might have harmful effects of their own.
For bruxism: get an oral appliance
Grind your teeth at night? Your dentist might prescribe an oral device—particularly a mouth guard—to stop those cumbersome movements.
For malocclusion: consult your orthodontist
Finally, if you find that your receding gums are a matter of misaligned teeth, treating an exposed tooth root is simple—get them straightened. Everything else will follow.